In 2021, Novak Djokovic went on a run that can hardly be imagined by anyone. Hot off a 27 consecutive match win streak at grand slams, Djokovic looked like it was all or nothing in the fight of his life. Unfortunately, despite coming so far, and looking the favourite to finally unlock an achievement that evaded him even during one of tennis’s all time greatest seasons (2011)- Djokovic agonisingly fell short. That year was quite the run. The names of the players he took down during that grand slam run?
"Chardy, Bublik, Fritz, Raonic, Zverev, Karatsev, Medvedev, Sandgren, Cuevas, Berankis, Musetti, Berretini, Nadal, Tsitsipas, Draper, Anderson, Kudla ,Garin, Fucsovics, Shapovalov, Berretini (2), Rune, Griekspoor, Nishikori, Brooksby, Berretini (3), Zverev"
No player amongst next gen has actually beaten either one of Nadal or Djokovic and also gone on to win the Australian Open, Roland Garros or Wimbledon. This is a crucial bit of information that will severely boost Djokovic’s chances of at least making it 3/4 of the way to the calendar gran slam. The US Open, however, for some reason in the past has been a breeding ground for champions outside of the big 3. What is also strange is that Djokovic has the ability to annihilate competition and win the US Open. Just look at the 2018 US Open- Djokovic won that major despite having his worst first half of a season ever.
At Roland Garros and Wimbledon, every year, the same situation seems to continually keep repeating itself in these 2 majors. The only player outside of the “big 4” who managed to beat Nadal or Djokovic at Australian Open, Roland Garros or Wimbledon and win a major is Stan Wawrinka. Unfortunately, Stan Wawrinka is 37 years old, and thus there is no expectation for him to replicate those feats.
Novak Djokovic has also never seemed to be able to get the crowd support that other players enjoy- whether it is at Wimbledon, Flushing Meadows or Melbourne Park. In fact, Djokovic was overcome with emotion when he finally won over support from the crowd during the 2021 US Open final. Unfortunately, support came just as he was falling short in what would have been his biggest career achievement: winning the calendar year grand slam.
The loss at the 2021 US Open, remarkably, could serve as extra fuel in the fire for Djokovic, in a career with almost nothing left to prove. His only competition appears to be Spain’s golden child Rafael Nadal (who has every chance of improving his major record of 22 with a win in Paris this June). The elusive calendar year grand slam is something which has never been achieved in the men’s professional game, bar once, by Rod Laver in 1969.
It is why Roland Garros really is the major which will garner the most excitement for many. Djokovic will never really be the favourite to win the French Open as long as the 13 time winner Rafael Nadal is in the draw. It is this mystique, the idea of Novak winning a major he is not supposed to win, which will be his crowning glory in 2023- if he pulls it off. At Wimbledon, he will likely come in as the favourite. A little over a year ago today, Novak Djokovic was holed-up in refugee detention. A year later, he has won 2 majors, the ATP finals and the dream of a calendar year grand slam is well and truly alive
All in all, do you think Djokovic can defy the odds and win his first ever calendar grand slam in 2023?